Plantar hyperhidrosis, or hyperhidrosis of the feet, affects approximately 1-2% of Americans. Plantar hyperhidrosis is characterized by excessive sweating in the feet not set by other causes such as exercise, fever or anxiety. Many people affected by plantar hyperhidrosis also suffer from palmar hyperhidrosis, or excessive seating of the hands, in addition.
Normally sweating is a process used by the body’s sympathetic nervous system to cool itself and maintain a steady internal temperature. In individuals affected by hyperhidrosis, the sympathetic nervous system produces far more sweat than actually needed.
Plantar hyperhidrosis is considered a primary hyperhidrosis, as secondary hyperhidrosis refers to excessive sweating in areas other than the feet, armpits or hands. Secondary hyperhidrosis could indicate other medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism and menopause.
Symptoms of plantar hyperhidrosis include athlete’s foot, infections, blisters and foot odor. Due to the continual moisture, socks and shoes can rot, creating an additional odor that can ruin the materials and cause socks and shoes to need frequent replacement. In addition to physical symptoms, this disorder can also affect emotional health as this disorder can be embarrassing.
Hyperhidrosis can persist throughout an individual’s life if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several treatment options available. A common first approach is using a topical ointment often containing aluminum chloride, an ingredient found in antiperspirants. Another treatment method is using Botox, which is injected directly into the foot, and can effectively minimize the sweat glands in the injected area. These injections need to be repeated every 4 to 9 months.
If either of these treatments prove ineffective, oral prescription medications may be taken to alleviate the symptoms. As with any treatment, some will experience relief while others do not. Another method that reportedly provides relief is going barefoot.
A final approach to fighting plantar hyperhidrosis is through surgery, although it is less successful on those with hyperhidrosis in the feet as opposed to hands. Surgery is only recommended when the sweating is severe and other treatments have failed to work. This type of surgery involves going into the central nervous system and cutting nerves to stop transmission of signals telling the foot to sweat.